Tag Archives: google.org

Help build a digital future in Central & Eastern Europe

Technology has been a lifeline for many European businesses and communities throughout the pandemic—from helping people find accurate health information and buy groceries online to finding new ways to learn and stay connected with loved ones. But equally, the pandemic has also widened the social divide, putting disadvantaged groups at risk of being further left behind. As economies embark on a path to recovery, creating an accessible digital future for everyone will be vital.  

To help fill that need, today we are launching our first Google.org Impact Challenge dedicated to Central and Eastern Europe. With this initiative we are further committing to the region, and we will be distributing €2 million in grants to organizations that are working to bridge the social and digital divide to promote inclusive economic growth and recovery. (For those who are interested, applications are open now until March 1, 2021.) 

Make sure everyone in CEE has access to digital opportunities

This work is particularly important for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), where governments, businesses and communities have outlined their ambition to make digital a driver of economic prosperity for the more than 100 million people who live in the region. The CEE countries are working together as part of the Three Seas Initiative to make that vision a reality, and we are doing our part to help.

Last year Google pledged to help 10 million people and businesses across Europe, Middle East and Africa digitize, grow and find new careers. In the CEE region specifically, we helped 250,000 people grow their digital skills or transition to a digital-focused career in 2020 alone.  

Similarly, just in the past year Google.org has also given more than €1.5 million in individual grant funding to several charitable organisations in Central and Eastern Europe that are working to improve digital-enabled education and economic opportunity. We’ve been inspired by how these organizations give back to their communities. Digital Nation helps facilitate remote employment in disadvantaged areas across Romania through offering a virtual training program tailored to IT jobs and supporting small businesses through digital upskilling. And other organizations, like the Czechitas initiative in Czechia, Women Go Tech in Lithuania and Riga Tech Girls in Latvia, are all working to build a digital future for all and helping connect women to professional opportunities in tech. 

With this Google.org Impact Challenge, we’re excited to see all the new ways organizations can positively impact their communities and build an inclusive digital future for all.  

Apply with your bold ideas by March 1, 2021

Applications for the Google.org Impact Challenge for Central and Eastern Europe are now open. We’re looking for initiatives that aim to rebuild the economy with social inclusion at its core. The ideas can be big or small and at any level of maturity—whether it’s a new idea or a well-established effort poised to scale. Applicants must apply with projects that are charitable in nature, meet the application criteria, and be based in one of the following countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Eligible organizations (including nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies and academic institutions) can apply for support for their charitable projects until March 1, 2021 at g.co/ceechallenge

We’ve asked a distinguished panel of experts to advise on the selection of the boldest and brightest project ideas. More than a dozen academics, leaders and civil society activists from across the region will help decide which applicants will receive between €50,000-€250,000 in grant funding and possible support from Google to help with their initiatives.

We hope this support will encourage social innovators across the region to think big about how they can use technology to help individuals and communities in Central and Eastern Europe thrive in a digitized economy. 

Our continuing support for Dreamers

For generations, talented immigrants have helped America drive technological breakthroughs and scientific advancements that have created millions of new jobs in new industries, enriching our culture and our economy.

That’s why we have long supported the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This was established in 2012 and allows “Dreamers” who came to the United States as children to request deferred action and work authorization for a renewal period of two years. Google proudly employs Dreamers who work to build the products you use every day. And we’ve defended their right to stay in the United States by joining amici briefs in court supporting DACA.

Unfortunately, DACA’s immediate future is uncertain. At the end of 2020, a U.S. District Court indicated that it could soon issue a ruling against DACA and bar new applications and ultimately renewals as well, leaving countless Dreamers in limbo during this uncertain time.

We believe it’s important that Dreamers have a chance to apply for protection under the program so that they can safeguard their status in the United States. But in the middle of a global pandemic that has led to economic hardship, especially for the many immigrants playing essential roles on the front lines, there is concern that many Dreamers cannot afford to pay the application fee

We want to do our part, so Google.org is making a $250,000 grant to United We Dream to cover the DACA application fees of over 500 Dreamers. This grant builds on over $35 million in support that Google.org and Google employees have contributed over the years to support immigrants and refugees worldwide, including more than $1 million from Googlers and Google.org specifically supporting DACA and domestic immigration efforts through employee giving campaigns led by HOLA (Google’s Latino Employee Resource Group).

We know this is only a temporary solution. We need legislation that not only protects Dreamers, but also delivers other much-needed reforms. We will support efforts by the new Congress and incoming Administration to pass comprehensive immigration reform that improves employment-based visa programs that enhance American competitiveness, gives greater assurance to immigrant workers and employers, and promotes better and more humane immigration processing and border security practices.

Dreamers and other talented immigrants enrich our communities, contribute to our economy, and exemplify the innovative spirit of America. We’re proud to support them.

AI helps protect Australian wildlife in fire-affected areas

Editor’s note: Today's guest post comes from Darren Grover, Head of Healthy Land and Seascapes at the World Wide Fund For Nature Australia.

Over the next six months, more than 600 sensor cameras will be deployed in bushfire-affected areas across Australia, monitoring and evaluating the surviving wildlife populations. This nationwide effort is part of An Eye on Recovery, a large-scale collaborative camera sensor project, run by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Conservation International, with the support of a $1 million grant from Google.org. Using Wildlife Insights, a platform powered by Google’s Artificial Intelligence technology, researchers across the country will upload and share sensor camera photos to give a clearer picture of how Australian wildlife is coping after the devastating bushfires in the past year.  

Why is this important? 

For many Aussies, the horror of last summer’s fires is still very raw and real. Up to 19 million hectares were burned (more than 73,000 square miles), with 12.6 million hectares primarily forest and bushland. Thirty-three lives were lost and 3,094 homes destroyed. And the wildlife toll? A staggering three billion animals were estimated to have been impacted by the flames. 

Australian bushfire devastation

The scale of the damage is so severe that one year on—as we prepare for the next bushfire season—WWF and scientists are still in the field conducting ecological assessments. Our findings have been sobering. Nearly 61,000 koalas, Australia’s most beloved marsupial, are estimated to have been killed or impacted. Over 300 threatened species were affected, pushing more of our precious wildlife on the fast-track towards extinction.

Hope will prevail

In November, I travelled to Kangaroo Island in South Australia to place the first 100 of the sensor cameras in bushfire-ravaged areas. Though much of the native cover has been decimated by the flames, the island’s wildlife has shown signs of recovery. 

One animal at risk from the flames is the Kangaroo Island dunnart, an adorable, grey-coloured, nocturnal marsupial so elusive that a researcher told WWF that she’d never seen one in the field. We were fortunate to capture this creature of the night on one of our cameras.

Kangaroo Island dunnart

Thou art a dunnart.

But if I hadn’t told you that was a dunnart, you might have thought it was a mouse. And as anyone with thousands of holiday photos will tell you, sorting and organizing heaps of camera pictures and footage can be labor-intensive and time-consuming. Analyzing camera sensor pictures traditionally requires expertise to determine the best pictures (and which ones you can just delete), and you can get hundreds of empty images before you strike gold.

How AI can help 

With the Wildlife Insights platform, we can now identify over 700 species of wildlife in seconds and quickly discard empty images, taking the tedium out of the process and helping scientists and ecologists make better and more informed data assessments.  

The platform will help us identify wildlife in landscapes impacted by last summer’s bushfires, including the Blue Mountains, East Gippsland, South East Queensland, and of course Kangaroo Island. We’re particularly keen to see species like the Hastings River Mouse, a native rodent that was already endangered before fire tore through its habitat in northern New South Wales, and the brush-tailed rock-wallaby, which lost vital habitat and food to blazes in the Blue Mountains.

These images will help us to understand what species have survived in bushfire zones and determine where recovery actions are needed most.

Checking camera traps

WWF-Australia / Slavica Miskovich

Join us to safeguard species

The platform is still growing, and the more images we feed it, the better it will get at recognizing different types of animals. While we’re already rolling out hundreds of sensor cameras across the country, we are calling for more images—and asking Australians to help. If you have any sensor camera footage, please get in touch with us. We’re looking for images specifically from sensor cameras  placed in animal’s habitats, rather than wildlife photography (as beautiful as these pictures may be). 

With your help, we can help safeguard species such as the Kangaroo Island dunnart, marvel at their bright beaming eyes on film, and protect their environment on the ground--so future generations can continue to enjoy the richness of Australia’s wildlife.

Digital tools and skills bring economic recovery in Canada

When 2020 began, like so many others, I saw the opportunity for technology to help businesses grow, positively impact Canadians and address economic challenges. But I could have never imagined how the year would unfold and the profound impact digital technology would have on our daily lives.


Eight months into the pandemic, I made a purchase from 22 & Lou, where owner Laura Freel makes jams and marmalades out of her home kitchen in Toronto. Laura’s preserves had been flying off local market shelves, but with sudden store closures, she quickly realized that to keep her business alive, she’d have to start selling online. With no previous experience, she signed up for Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE powered by Google program, was paired with a Canadian student to build her website, and in a matter of weeks, her business was back up and running.


Laura’s is just one of the many stories of resilience I’ve heard from business owners across the country. And it’s a story we’re proud to be a part of. Today I’m sharing an update on how our teams worked alongside Canadian businesses and local organizations to support our country’s economic recovery. 

Statistics about digital skills in Canada

Helping Canadian businesses bounce back

We knew it was critical to get small businesses online quickly. That’s why in May, we invested $1 million to expand the ShopHERE program, and made a pledge to get 50,000 Canadian small businesses online. The program is currently operating in nearly 450 municipalities, and will continue to expand across the country, helping businesses like 22 & Lou start selling online. 


More than 1.5 million Canadians have visited our Small Business Hub, which provides the tools needed to get online, connect with customers and build digital skills. We made it free for Canadian retailers to list their products on the Google Shopping tab. And to help businesses keep up with the demand for e-commerce, we delivered Google Ads training through Skillshop and Google Academy, and worked with partners like the Retail Council of Canada, Export Development Canada, Startup Canada and Business Development Bank of Canada to deliver free virtual training to over 20,000 Canadian entrepreneurs.

Giving back to local communities 

But it’s not just about businesses, we are just as committed to helping the communities in which we live and work. As part of our COVID-19 local response, our Canadian sites donated over $800,000 in Community Grants through our philanthropic arm, Google.org. The organizations that received grants, such as Region Ready, Toronto Public Library Foundation, Kids Code Jeunesse and the Ottawa Food Bank, address critical areas of need, like food insecurity, connectivity, education and PPE for frontline health workers. Through the gift match program Google offers employees annually, Canadian Googlers have raised $1.6 million for organizations in their communities and around the world.

Digital skills training for the future of work

We need to better align the skills of the Canadian workforce with the jobs of the future. This year we transformed our free Grow with Google training to virtual formats and have trained more than 80,000 Canadians on digital skills. With school closures, we trained more than 10,000 Canadian teachers in G Suite for Education, to help them adapt to teaching from home. We also funded community organizations that do critical work to boost digital skills. Google.org announced  a $2.5 million grant for NPower Canada, to go toward IT training for 1,700 young adults from underrepresented groups. The first cohort graduated in September, and over half of the graduates have already secured employment just three months post-training. Last week, Google.org announced a $250,000 grant to ComIT, to provide free IT training to 450 Indigenous learners across Canada.

Supporting tech in Canada

We’ll continue our expansion plans to build new offices in Toronto, Montreal and Waterloo. To strengthen our support for the broader tech ecosystem, we launched two accelerators for Canadian startups. Collectively, the Google for Startups Accelerator Canada and Google for Startups Accelerator: Women Founders have enrolled 14 Canadian startups. We’ve also renewed our commitment to Canada’s AI ecosystem with an additional $3.5+ million grant to Mila, the world’s largest deep learning research institute based in Québec.  

In a year that has brought about many changes for us all, the pandemic is one thing we all have in common. And collaboration has been our strongest resource. As we all move increasingly online to find products and services, digitization is clearly the next driver of sustained growth for our country.  But we can’t do it alone. We’ll continue to work alongside businesses, local organizations and nonprofits into 2021 and beyond. 

Google.org supports Latino SMBs this holiday season

When I think about small businesses, I think about my family. My uncle runs a small freight forwarding business in South Florida. My cousin works at a family-owned Peruvian restaurant. And my father-in-law is a serial entrepreneur who has run a hair salon, a construction company, and an outdoor food court over the years. These small businesses have been a lifeline for my family, and provided opportunities for us to succeed in this country. 


Small businesses are the backbone of families like mine and the U.S. economy as a whole. It’s critical that we come together to support these pillars of local communities, especially for historically underserved groups, like the Latino community, which have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Latinos are 1.5 times more likely to start a business, but in the past few months alone about 32% of Latino-owned businesses have been forced to close due to COVID-19. 


In September, Google.org announced a $3 million grant to Hispanics in Philanthropy PowerUp Fund to directly support Latino-owned small businesses across California, Texas and New York. Through this effort, 500 small businesses were selected and will receive $5,000 in cash grants as well as a year's worth of business training from Ureeka, a community-based platform that connects underserved small business owners to peers, mentors and coaches, to help these businesses grow. We’re optimistic that through cash and training like this, small businesses will be able to build the resilience they need to withstand economic downturns, especially during the holidays. 


The PowerUp Fund grant recipients represent more than 55 industries including food and beverage, health and wellness, childcare, technology and more. Nearly 60 percent of these businesses are Latina-owned and more than 15 percent of business owners identify as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, a U.S. veteran or persons with disabilities. We asked recipients to share how this support will help keep the lights on, here’s what some of them had to say: 


Google.org’s funding for the PowerUp Fund builds on Google’s $180M commitment to support minority and women-led small businesses across the country through the Grow with Google Small Business Fund and Google.org grants. Read on to learn more about the other PowerUp Fund recipients and consider supporting a small business this holiday season— whether it’s buying your favorite candle from the shop around the corner or giving a shout out to your go-to dinner spot on social media—every little bit counts. 


Googler volunteers teach (and learn) important lessons

The COVID-19 pandemic has made distance learning the default option for many school-age children around the world. But many students, especially those in underserved communities, still aren’t familiar with using technology to learn.


Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to help address this challenge as a Google volunteer mentoring with Ini Budi, a nonprofit organization in Indonesia that creates digital learning materials for teachers and students. This volunteering opportunity was part of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public’s Changemaker Journey program, supported by Google.org and aimed at helping nonprofits get the tools, knowledge and skills to meet their immediate priorities and sustain their efforts over the long term. 


It was really rewarding to work with Indi Budi’s team to help them develop a learning hub using YouTube, and teach staff members how to use Google’s analytics tools to see how engaged students were with their classes. But what surprised me most was just how much I gained from the experience. 


Despite being the mentor, I felt I was learning from the Ini Budi team as much as they were learning from me. I started to better understand the challenges the education sector faced, and how we can begin to tackle these systemic issues. I realized that you can solve any problem with the power of collaboration. 


I want to highlight a few other Googlers who have been dedicating their time as mentors to help various Google.org grantees and show how helping others can lead you to learn more about yourself. 

Pat Choa

Pat Choa, gTech Ads Operations Director, Philippines

Being Filipino, I want local businesses to succeed, so I signed up to be a mentor to Filipino startups through a local enterprise, QBO Innovation Hub

Tapping my media and digital marketing knowledge, I reviewed these startups' media plans and shared my perspective on using digital platforms to grow their businesses. 

These group mentoring sessions made me feel like I was part of a broader community, where I, too, was learning from these startups’ challenges, motivations and ideas.

Talking to these entrepreneurs and hearing what they're trying to achieve brings me so much joy— just knowing that there are so many businesses trying to create better opportunities for other Filipinos inspires me to strive to do more to help my own community.

Brian Weidenbaum, Software Engineer, Singapore

I had the chance to be a hackathon mentor to pre-college students working on exciting software ideas at Engineering Good, a Singaporean nonprofit that empowers disadvantaged communities through engineering.

Brian Weidenbaum

Our hackathon team worked on a feature to make it easier for visually-impaired people to read screens that lack integrated screen readers. 


I was deeply impressed by how motivated the students were and how quickly they picked up machine learning techniques to create a prototype. Watching them build some compelling features in such a short period of time was inspiring, and seeing their idea come to life during the hackathon was a proud moment for me. Volunteering is such a great way to serve the community and, in this case, to help build the next generation of engineers. I want the engineers of the future to be more skilled than I am, and I am happy to see what people are capable of when you invest in them.

Max Tsai, Google Customer Solutions Direct Sales Lead, Taiwan  

I spent the last few months volunteering with the Institute for Information Industry, a local nonprofit that supports the development of the information industry in Taiwan.

Max Tsai

I was tasked with designing and developing a series of webinars to help local businesses gain new knowledge on topics like finding the right talent for building a great workplace culture. 

Together with five other Google volunteers, we were able to produce three webinars, with more sessions to come in the coming weeks. 

More than 900 entrepreneurs attended these sessions, with many reaching out to share how useful our insights and tips were. 

Through this experience, I learned how valuable knowledge-sharing sessions could be. It felt good knowing that we had this opportunity to use our skills to help these organizations as they continue to evolve.

Computer Science Education Week: More help for more students

Recent research shows that only 45 percent of U.S. schools offer computer science (CS) courses, and that Black, Latinx and Female students especially lack equitable access to a CS education.  So I beat the odds: I am a Black, female, computer engineer at Google.

Majoring in systems and CS at Howard University opened up so many opportunities in my life and career. Computing jobs are the number one source of new wages in the U.S.; clearly, these skills are becoming as important as reading and writing and we can’t afford to leave anyone out. Code with Google is our commitment to closing equity gaps in CS, and this year for Computer Science Education Week we're announcing two new initiatives to create more access.

 

Code Next goes virtual 

This year, as part of Code with Google’s portfolio of CS education programs, Code Next is expanding. Launched in 2015, Code Next offers free CS education with a focus on Black and Latinx high school students, providing the skills and inspiration they need for long and rewarding careers in computer science-related fields. Originally available only in New York and California, it’s expanded to 16 virtual clubs under a program called Code Next Connect.

Nadirah Pinney, a 2020 Code Next Oakland graduate, said she was reluctant to join the program at first because she wasn’t interested in CS. “I quickly learned to love the way that Code Next taught CS. It not only taught me lessons I didn’t think I could learn, it actually made me more comfortable with myself.” Having graduated from the program, Nadirah is now enrolled at San Jose State University where she’s studying to be a software engineer.  

Image shows two women sitting at a white desk talking over an open laptop. One woman has her back to the camera and is looking at the laptop screen, the other women is facing the camera, looking at the other woman, and smiling.

Nadirah working on a Code Next assignment alongside her Code Next coach Alyssa Lui.

Any student ages 14-18 can now apply to the virtual program starting in January 2021, with the ability to choose a CS-related curriculum track including game design, UX, hardware or intro to scripting. 

 

A new Google.org grant for the Scratch Foundation

We’re building on our work with the Scratch Foundation—a creative coding platform used by more than 2 million students—with a new $5 million dollar Google.org grant. Last year, Google supported Scratch and the Office of CS in Chicago Public Schools to host Family Creative Coding Nights at New Chance Fund elementary schools so that students and their families could come together and create using code.
A woman looks at a laptop that is sitting at a table while two young children gather around to look at the laptop as well. Everyone is smiling.

Champika Fernando (center) from the Scratch team at a Family Creative Coding Night.

The work in Chicago inspired Scratch to create the Scratch Education Collaborative (SEC)—a global network of community led organizations, providing high-quality resources and training, based on the Scratch coding platform, for educators and young people who are historically excluded from computing. Scratch is currently accepting new applications for the pilot year of the SEC; visit the website to see if your organization would be a good fit.

These new initiatives are a part of Google’s larger commitment to CS education. Since 2013, Google.org has given more than $80 million to organizations around the globe working to increase access to high quality CS learning opportunities.

If you’re an educator, make sure to check outCS First Unplugged—our first Hour of Code activity that can be used completely offline and without a computer to support a variety of learning environments. Happy #CSEdWeek, everyone.

Expanded funding for Indigenous businesses in the U.S.

Danielle Greendeer is the owner of Wampanoag Trading Post and Gallery in Massachusetts, which sells handmade Eastern Woodland art made by Indigenous artists. She is also a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Nation. The Wampanoag are associated with what became known as the “first Thanksgiving.” 

Danielle Greendeer

“The year 2020 marks the 400th year since the arrival of the Mayflower and the introduction of the Pilgrims to the Wampanoag Nation,” she told our team at Google.org earlier this month. “For the Mashpee Wampanoag people, it is important to tell the history from our perspective and educate the public on the challenges that our Tribe is still trying to overcome. The survival and evolution of our art is an example of how resilient our culture is.”

November is also Native American Heritage Month. As an Indigenous person, I see this moment as a reminder for society to reflect on, honor and celebrate the resilience of the people who are the first inhabitants of the United States. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit these communities especially hard, both in terms of health and economic stability. Earlier this year, we awarded $1 million in loans to Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Center through Grow with Google, and $250,000 in Google.org grants to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), to provide immediate relief to small businesses owned by Native Americans/American Indians. We’re also working with NCAI to offer Grow with Google training for small businesses and job seekers in Native American communities. This embedded digital training program will train more than 5,000 Native businesses owners to better leverage their online presence by April 2021.  

Danielle’s business received financial support from Google.org and NCAI, which helped her hire temporary part-time workers, support six more Indigenous artisans and schedule workshops and screenings of Native films. For Native American Heritage Month, they have opened an extension space and are screening a documentary film called Mashpee Nine. “Offering this film to the public at no charge is part of our commitment to educate our community about the history of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe,” she says.

We know there are many more amazing businesses like Danielle’s, which is why we’re announcing an additional $1 million in funding through Google.org to NCAI which will directly support hundreds of businesses. The fund is open to Native American/American Indian business owners for applications today. Head to the NCAI fund website for more information or to apply. 

Expanded funding for Indigenous businesses in the U.S.

Danielle Greendeer is the owner of Wampanoag Trading Post and Gallery in Massachusetts, which sells handmade Eastern Woodland art made by Indigenous artists. She is also a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Nation. The Wampanoag are associated with what became known as the “first Thanksgiving.” 

Danielle Greendeer

“The year 2020 marks the 400th year since the arrival of the Mayflower and the introduction of the Pilgrims to the Wampanoag Nation,” she told our team at Google.org earlier this month. “For the Mashpee Wampanoag people, it is important to tell the history from our perspective and educate the public on the challenges that our Tribe is still trying to overcome. The survival and evolution of our art is an example of how resilient our culture is.”

November is also Native American Heritage Month. As an Indigenous person, I see this moment as a reminder for society to reflect on, honor and celebrate the resilience of the people who are the first inhabitants of the United States. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit these communities especially hard, both in terms of health and economic stability. Earlier this year, we awarded $1 million in loans to Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Center through Grow with Google, and $250,000 in Google.org grants to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), to provide immediate relief to small businesses owned by Native Americans/American Indians. We’re also working with NCAI to offer Grow with Google training for small businesses and job seekers in Native American communities. This embedded digital training program will train more than 5,000 Native businesses owners to better leverage their online presence by April 2021.  

Danielle’s business received financial support from Google.org and NCAI, which helped her hire temporary part-time workers, support six more Indigenous artisans and schedule workshops and screenings of Native films. For Native American Heritage Month, they have opened an extension space and are screening a documentary film called Mashpee Nine. “Offering this film to the public at no charge is part of our commitment to educate our community about the history of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe,” she says.

We know there are many more amazing businesses like Danielle’s, which is why we’re announcing an additional $1 million in funding through Google.org to NCAI which will directly support hundreds of businesses. The fund is open to Native American/American Indian business owners for applications today. Head to the NCAI fund website for more information or to apply. 

Help for Asia’s change-making nonprofit leaders

As someone who came to Google from the nonprofit world, I understand how challenging it can be for nonprofit organizations to find the right resources and talent to tackle some of the world's complex challenges. 


COVID-19 doesn't make it easier. So in June this year, Google.org granted $600,000 to Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, helping them launch a six-month capacity-building program for 28 nonprofits from Singapore, Indonesia and India. The Changemaker Journey program has two main goals. First, to help nonprofits get the tools, knowledge and skills to meet their immediate priorities and sustain their efforts over the long-term. Second, to build a community where organizations can learn from one another, collaborate, and discover new ideas together.


I spoke to Janine Teo, founder and CEO of Solve Education, a Singapore-based nonprofit working to make high-quality education more accessible, to learn about her personal journey and how the program has helped her during the pandemic.
The Source team

Tell me about yourself. What led you to the nonprofit world? 

It started with two questions from my mentor. He first asked, "What are you working so hard for?" My parents grew up in poverty. Both of them had to drop out of school to support the family, but they knew the importance of education. My father put himself back to school and graduated when he was 30. My mother paid off her brothers' education fees then enrolled herself in night school to get her diploma. My parents showed me how you could still learn and grow even at a later age. 


He then asked, "What's your purpose?" I was trained as a software engineer but tried different industries, including hospitality. While I appreciated these experiences, I knew I wanted to solve deeper problems, contribute to society and help others. So five years ago, and with my mentor’s support, I’d started Solve Education to help people of all ages, nationalities, and backgrounds get a high-quality education. 


Has it been challenging being a social entrepreneur in 2020? 

Definitely—we can all agree education creates opportunities. But COVID-19 has made learning challenging, especially for those in underserved communities. Some of the families we support in India don't have the luxury to socially distance themselves — or even study — because of the lack of space. For others, being a daily wage worker means they need to find work every day to put food on the table. The people we serve are more afraid of dying of hunger than the pandemic—it’s survival mode for many of them. We had to be creative to solve this problem, so we introduced Game for Charity, a point-based program where beneficiaries could earn points by completing learning modules and exchange these points for food packages. 


What inspired you to be part of the capacity-building program, and how did it help your organization? 

The concept of finding solutions to complex problems that have positive effects in changing the system fascinates me. As a social entrepreneur, I think it's important to look at the root causes of the problems we’re looking to solve. I also wanted to widen my network through the Ashoka Foundation and Google.org—and continue learning, too. In fact, one of my most memorable sessions from the program was attending a Google Ads coaching session led by Google volunteers with my team. The session was so useful because it was exactly what we needed help with! 


This program also gave us a fresh perspective one some of the issues we’re dealing with. It helped us question ourselves more and home in on projects that will have the biggest impact. 


The truth is, capacity-building is often overlooked. It's hard to expect nonprofits to contribute to systemic change without building their ability to think critically, as well as the broader skills they need to run their organization effectively. After all, we are solving problems that no one has solved before. When we look at education, we still have a world where 263 million children and youth aren’t attending school. We are nowhere near solving the problem, but joining this program gave me and my team the inspiration and excitement to continue challenging ourselves.